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Media about climate change must address the social impacts, and respect refugees

Climate change and migration: the need for a new media narrative, Ecologist Maria Sakellari, 29th August 2018 People forced by climate change to relocate are described by the media as victims or as security threats. There is little information about vulnerable communities’ fight to secure a viable future. We need to challenge these representations to provoke policies that protect the inherent rights of people affected by climate change, argues MARIA SAKELLARI

Migration is one the most profound effects of climate change on human population.

Climate change impacts such as accelerating sea-level rise and weather extremes, like hurricanes and droughts, are happening with increased regularity and intensity. They cause damage to property, infrastructure and livelihoods and, ultimately, force people to leave their homes.

Yet, the news media connects climate induced migration with security, risk and victimisation, rather than with the plight of displaced people. This comes with consequences for policy options.

Vulnerable communities 

The destructive paths of the 2017 hurricanes in the Caribbean show that the most dramatic climate change impacts fall disproportionately on the most vulnerable in terms socioeconomic status, no matter which country they live in.

Developing countries, the least responsible for climate change, will be most dramatically and immediately affected.

International migration to wealthier and less vulnerable regions is one way in which vulnerable communities cope with the impacts of a changing climate.Victim or threat

Despite the severity of the issue, little of the real situation of climate change effects on vulnerable populations is reported in western mass media. While climate change has gained news coverage, media discourse on the social nature of climate change is limited, compared to energy or policy issues.

When climate migration gains traction in the media in countries like the USUK and Australia, those forced to relocate are described mainly as victims of a changing climate, required to abandon their homes or as potential threat to social order.

With regards to the security threat frame, the rationale is that climate change is projected to threaten natural resources, and bring already fragile societies to the brink of collapse.

This new wave of refugees will supposedly fuel crime rise, even though there is no empirical connection between migration and crime……….

How and why certain people and certain nations are more vulnerable to climate change impacts are neglected topics. Little is known about vulnerable communities’ political agency, their inherent rights and their actions to protect livelihoods, defend homeland and culture. ……

Almost a decade ago, in 2010, climate change induced migration was explicitly and formally recognized in the text of the Cancun Adaptation Framework, established under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

However, the subsequent Paris Agreement has a reduced mandate, as it only refers generally to ‘displacement’ – without specifying what the term means – as part of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage, which still lacks a coordinated framework for addressing the multiple challenges of climate migration.

The 1951 Geneva Refugee Convention, the principal international legal instrument for the protection of people forcibly displaced across international borders, does not cover climate change induced mobility.

The UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants in 2016 was assumed to be an important turn for climate migration policies. However, the resultant New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants failed to meet its aspirations.

The recent non-binding Global Compact of Migration makes reference to climate change induced migration but does not provide a specific protection to climate displaced people. ……….

As media coverage of climate migration issues is only slowly emerging, there is a window of opportunity to proactively influence the media agenda.

We need to empower journalists and media professionals to enable the emergence of climate change debates beyond the energy, policy and security frame, and push for policies that address historical injustices, protect human rights and contribute to the transformation of how climate change induced migration is perceived.

Vulnerable communities are determined of protecting their rights, cultures and livelihoods: we must embrace their narrative. 

August 31, 2018 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change

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